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Somalia, January 2016: Joint measles and birth registration campaign provides 100,000 children with birth certificates

© UNICEF Somalia/2016/Sarman
Somali children show their new birth certificates that will help them to realize their rights.

By Jamal Abdi Sarman

HARGEISA, Somaliland, January 2016 – For the first time Somali families were given the chance to vaccinate their children against measles and register them for a birth certificate at the same time.

Only three out of every 100 Somali babies are registered at birth although it is the right of every child to have an official birth certificate providing their name and nationality and it can provide access to education, healthcare and protection. A UNICEF supported pilot campaign in two Somaliland districts started in late 2014, expanding to six in 2015 – the first Somali Government civil registration activity since the collapse of the central government in 1991 – led to over 5,300 children being registered.

The 10 day measles vaccination campaign provided the Birth Registration Campaign with access to a large number of unregistered children in Somaliland and led to 100,000 additional children being registered, 66,000 of whom have already been issued with birth certificates. A third of them were in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa, and the rest in the six pilot districts.

Fardousa Sadiq, who brought her two children for immunization at Sahardid Health Centre in Hargeisa, was pleased to be offered the birth certificates.

“I’m happy as I have used this opportunity to immunize my children against measles and also to get them issued with birth certificates, which will grant them recognition and ensure their official information is on record,” she explained.

The Mayor of Boroma, the regional capital of Awdal in north west Somaliland, Mohamed Hussein, said the campaign allowed children who are from disadvantaged backgrounds to be documented.

“We were the first town to initiate the birth registration exercise,” he said. “Through our work with the Interior Ministry we have managed to issue 15,802 children living in Borama town with birth certificates. We and the community welcome this initiative and are happy to support it.”

© UNICEF Somalia/2016/Sarman
Four year old Hadi Abdikadir is vaccinated in a health clinic in Boroma, Somaliland.

During the catch-up measles campaign, UNICEF and the World Health Organization supported the Somaliland authorities to target over one million (1,051,054) children aged from nine months to nine years with the vaccination.

Last year there were 6000 cases of measles in Somalia. A household survey in 2011 (MICS) found that only a quarter of children had received their measles vaccine by the recommended age of one. In Somalia measles is thought to be responsible for 12 per cent of deaths of Somali children under the age of five.

The team of 1,843 people comprised vaccinators, data recorders and social mobilisers who went from house to house. There were also radio and television announcements, text messages loudspeaker street announcements, posters and banners. The vaccines were available in the Health Centres and through a network of fixed, temporary and mobile posts.

Borama’s Mayor attributed the success of the measles campaign to cooperation between UNICEF,WHO and the Somaliland authorities. “We had an outbreak here and so we have ensured the measles campaign covers all the intended locations including those near the Ethiopian border, despite the remote locations and poor roads.”

Rahma Mohamed brought her two boys to the main health clinic in Boroma.

“I have been waiting for the campaign to start after I got the information as a text message on my mobile,” she said. “I’m happy my two boys have been vaccinated and they will be safe from measles, which was reported in our region.”



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